The Southern California ska band Starpool gets the crowd jumping during the 27th annual Twilight Dance Series on the Santa Monica Pier. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SM PIER — The company that produced the majority of the Twilight Dance Series concerts in 2011 has once again been awarded the contract, and this time with enough leeway to bring some rockin’ talent to the Santa Monica tradition.

Rum & Humble received the $143,400 contract in October, considerably earlier than in 2011 when a shakeup in the concert series left King and Co., the firm that had led the series for 26 years, out in the cold.

That year, Rum & Humble founder Martin Fleischmann began booking talent for the July performances in May.

Even so, the company managed to land famous rockers the Bangles and a number of eclectic bands to carry the shows.

A more normal timeline would have involved approaching the performers at the end of the year and locking them in at the beginning of the new year.

He hopes that the extra time will give him the leeway to bring stellar acts to the series that appeal to the wide cross-section of southern Californians that flock to the free event every year.

Rum & Humble will be producing all 10 of the 2012 season’s concerts.

“Obviously it’s a great advantage to have this kind of lead time in the booking,” Fleischmann said. “Traditionally, artists that would be good prospects are making their plans in the beginning of the year. To be able to catch them now and even earlier is going to be reflected in the final.”

Fleischmann and his company aren’t the only ones breathing a sigh of relief for a little stability.

Locking in the producer in October meant that organizers with the Pier Restoration Corp., the group that manages the Santa Monica Pier, have already had time to plan, fundraise and get sponsors on board, said Steve Gibson, interim executive director of the PRC.

“We’re way ahead of the process that’s normally been,” Gibson said. “Last year we were scrambling for money last minute. We’re not going through any crises this year.”

The 2011 series marked the first time that the Twilight Dance Series had a flagship sponsor, One West Bank. At the beginning of the planning process, the series was “not in a very good financial position,” Gibson said.

Many of the sponsors that were brought on have already expressed interest in coming back, and the team is now looking to attract more.

While planners raced against the clock in 2011 to organize the event and secure funding, the public was none the wiser.

In fact, those that came to the event noticed a number of upgrades, including a beer and wine garden put on by Santa Monica Place’s Sonoma Wine Garden and expanded merchandise including T-shirts and water bottles.

Most notably, a large screen was brought out for some of the concerts to give a better view to the growing number of people who chose to enjoy the series from the sand on the southern side of the pier.

For the dance-focused nights, like Aug. 25’s Tango on the Timbers, a dance floor was installed for tango lessons and fun during the concert.

“All of the improvements that were made last year are still part of this year,” Gibson said.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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